THE FEEDING - PART 3

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1952

The new spider was sent to the exhibit hall's main office, in a large wooden box with several tiny air holes that had been drilled into each corner. From there, a carnival worker took it on her way back from picking up her own mail, all but dropping it to the ground in front of his trailer before knocking on the door and walking away.

He knew what was in the box the moment he saw it through the screen. He recalled hearing a loud sound right before whoever delivered it had knocked-surely the box hadn't been dropped? Didn't they know what was inside, what could happen if the specimen was killed or startled into anger? No, of course they don't, he thought as he went down from the trailer steps and bent to pick up the box. They need to learn. They need to be taught.

Once the trailer door was locked, he set the wooden box inside a ten-gallon tank that was already lined with potting soil. He reached in to lift the top off the box then paused. Surely the dealer hadn't put the spider directly in the wooden box, right? Brazilian wanderers were one of the most venomous spiders in the world. He had always assumed that the transfer would occur via a jar, which was how it'd been with the widows.

Just in case, he put on a pair of heavy but fitted rubber gloves that reached all the way to his elbows, then grabbed what he liked to call his "spider spritzer," a small misting device that he'd be able to use to drug the new Brazilian wanderer.

"Your new sibling, my sweets," he cooed in the direction of the tarantula cage. "Our salvation has come at last."

After setting the spider spritzer within easy reach, he used a knife to break the seals on the wooden box, then pried it open. Inside was a large bunch of bananas that were just starting to turn brown, with thick swaths of webbing connecting them all together from the inside. When he saw the bananas, he took a step back and immediately grabbed the spritzer.

"Just a little spritz to feel sleepy," he assured the tarantulas, in case they were concerned. The liquid drug concoction he'd mixed gathered in tiny beads over the surface of the webbing.

As soon as he was finished, he set the spritzer down, replaced the top of the tank and stepped back. As he watched eagerly for any sort of activity, he was struck with a better idea. He went all around the trailer, closing the blinds and then the curtains to make it as dark as possible. Once he was shrouded in shadow, he stepped closer to the tank again, holding his breath and wringing his gloved hands over each other.

There, from the space in the middle of the bunch of bananas, came a startlingly bright blue light. He gasped, his jaw slacking more open with each second. He'd imagined something far duller, even wondered to himself if the glowing spider angle had been exaggerated or even completely fabricated. But this was better than anything he could have dared to expect.

"Do you see this, my dears?" he asked the tarantulas, breathless. "It's magic, real magic!" Then he remembered the specimens had been collected at a rain forest crater site and closed his mouth. What kind of meteor could have an effect like that on the spiders?

The blue light moved slowly around the darkness, the effects blurred by the thick webbing that clouded the bunch of fruit. Finally, it emerged from its nest.

The spider was so much larger than he ever could have imagined, it truly took his breath away. The legs were long and slim, uncurling like fingers over the potted soil at the bottom of the tank. Brazilian wanderers usually only had a leg span of up to five inches, but this creature's span easily topped seven inches or more. Another effect of the meteor? he wondered, completely taken.

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